Xicheng District is home to a charming combination of some of the most distinctive things that the city has to offer: cozy hutongs, palatial courtyard houses, charming lakes, and fine restaurants. For many visitors, this is one of the best areas in which to fall in love with Beijing.
The best way to do that is to take a walk or bicycle tour of the hutongs here: there’s no better way to scratch the surface of this sprawling city (before it disappears) than by exploring these courtyard houses as you wander in and out of historic sites in the area.
This is also a great area for people-watching, especially along the shores of Houhai. As you wander, sample the local snacks sold from shop windows. Treats abound on Huguosi Jie (just west of Mei Lanfang’s house). In the evening, relax at a restaurant or bar with a view of the lake. The lakes at Shichahai are hopping day and night.